You Asked: best streaming device for image quality, plus frame rate control, and more

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In this installment of You Asked: What is HDR, really? Streaming pinch 4K HDR 10 + versus 4K Blu-ray discs pinch conscionable HDR 10? What’s nan quality betwixt 4:2:0, 4:2:2, and 4:4:4 color? And why do immoderate OLED TVs look unspeakable successful nan store?

Which streaming instrumentality is nan champion for image quality

An Apple TV 4K container connected a media console. Digital Trends

We’re going to commencement pinch 2 commenters asking much aliases little nan aforesaid question, and location are much for illustration this successful nan You Asked inbox on nan aforesaid lines, I’m judge of it.

Freddy writes: I already cognize that value tin alteration among nan different streaming services, but tin value besides dangle connected your streaming device? In different words, tin an Apple TV 4K aliases Nvidia Shield nutrient a amended image connected nan aforesaid app compared to nan cheaper Chromecast pinch Google TV aliases a Roku 4K device?

And Raphael asked: Will an Apple TV 4K supply amended image and sound value than nan LG C1 built-in apps? I cognize group opportunity nan ATV4k has a amended system, but nan LG OS doesn’t fuss maine astatine all. My main interest is pinch image quality. And what astir a PS5?


The short reply is that nan hardware you are utilizing to watercourse your contented — whether that’s nan apps built into your TV, inexpensive streaming sticks, aliases premium streaming boxes – tin person an effect connected nan value of your video and audio. But successful galore cases, it’s nan level that makes nan difference.

The Amazon Prime Video app, for instance, doesn’t output nan aforesaid value video crossed each platform. It’s nary astonishment that nan champion Amazon Prime Video acquisition comes from an Amazon Fire TV device. That’s an lawsuit of Amazon keeping nan champion for itself, which I deliberation is conscionable rude. Other cases are little nefarious. The Max aliases Disney+ app whitethorn look different streamed connected a TCL Google TV versus a Hisense Google TV versus a Sony Google TV. The apps connected nan Roku platform whitethorn activity otherwise than nan aforesaid apps connected nan LG WebOS level aliases nan Samsung Tizen platform. Digging into nan specifications of which level has nan champion versions of a fixed app tin get ace messy, arsenic you’d imagine.

Then there’s nan hardware consideration, which is besides messy. I haven’t seen overmuch of a quality successful video value between, say, nan Roku Streaming Stick 4K and nan Roku Ultra, unless nan Roku Ultra’s Ethernet relationship overcame a Wi-Fi relationship limitation. However, I person noticed that nan Chromecast pinch Google TV is accordant crossed TVs and sometimes ends up moving amended than nan built-in Google TV apps connected immoderate TVs. The aforesaid goes for nan Fire TV Stick versus nan Cube connected nan Amazon platform. Most of nan differences successful nan hardware aren’t related to nan value of nan video they deliver, though. They person to do pinch really accelerated apps load and different frilly features.

As you tin see, it’s a spot of a messiness if you commencement drilling down excessively deeply. And I deliberation astir folks are going to beryllium very happy pinch a high-quality outer streamer successful nan agelong word successful general. Having that streaming instrumentality separated from nan TV intends they tin beryllium updated independently and replaced much inexpensively and arsenic needed to enactment up to date. Those considerations unsocial make getting a decent streaming instrumentality aliases dongle worthy it. Plus, streaming sticks and dongles are portable. You tin return them pinch you connected vacations, visits to relatives, business trips, etc. I transportation a Chromecast pinch Google TV successful my backpack for conscionable specified reasons.

But for location use, connected my main TVs? I thin to usage Apple TV 4K boxes. The Apple TV 4K is not perfect, though it still is atop our database of the champion streaming hardware you tin buy. For instance: It doesn’t support DTS:X, correct now, which Disney+ will soon support. But wide it is nan astir stable, reliable, and consistently high-quality acquisition retired there. And past there’s each nan Apple-specific stuff, if you’re a dense Apple user. I besides for illustration nan power that nan Apple TV lets you leverage. It lets you make judge that you’re watching 24 frames per 2nd contented astatine 24 fps alternatively of having 30 fps aliases 60 fps forced connected you – which immoderate streaming services and hardware will do to you.

I fought nan Apple TV bony and nail successful nan early days because it was comically costly compared to streaming sticks — and moreover streaming boxes from competing brands. But now, successful its much modern version, it has go my go-to for regular usage and TV testing.

As a broadside note, crippled consoles mostly time off a batch to beryllium desired arsenic media streamers. Convenient? Sure, if you’re a gamer first and a streamer a distant second. But I will ne'er usage a crippled console arsenic a streamer for immoderate semipermanent use.

Frame complaint control

Desktop inheritance connected nan Alienware 34 QD-OLED.Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Felix from Germany says: I usage an Alienware aw3423dw. I’m amazed I tin usage HDR moreover pinch nan colour extent group to 8-bit. I ever thought 10-bit is necessary. In a erstwhile You Asked, you said immoderate panels are utilizing “frame complaint control” to archive HDR moreover pinch nan limits. But I besides recovered nan tech called “dithering.”


Frame complaint power — aliases FRC — and dithering, wrong nan discourse of what we’re talking about, are nan aforesaid thing.

What you’re asking is really HDR is imaginable pinch 8-bit colour erstwhile I said antecedently that HDR required 10-bit color. And that is because immoderate segments of nan manufacture person decided that expanded luminance opposition — nan summation successful nan scope betwixt achromatic and achromatic and nan greater number of steps successful nan brightness — is capable to suffice arsenic HDR. I do not agree, and I’m not alone. There are tons of different manufacture professionals and an expanding number of consumers who judge 10-bit colour should beryllium portion and parcel of nan HDR designation. However, since nan HDR constabulary aren’t retired location slapping nan cuffs connected anyone who breaks nan rule — because location really isn’t a rule — you will spot immoderate monitors and TVs that declare to beryllium HDR-capable, moreover though they hardly propulsion disconnected HDR successful immoderate meaningful way.

By nan way: That Alienware QD-OLED show is amazing, and you should provender it nan champion HDR awesome you tin because it deserves it. And truthful do you.

4K Blu-ray vs. HDR

Someone preparing to put a disk successful a Sony UBP X800M2 Blu-ray player.Digital Trends

Hasher asks: I precocious bought a Samsung S95C and was wondering what would beryllium a amended action for maine to watch my movies: movies connected Prime Video that are successful HDR10+ and UHD versus a 4K Blu-ray that is UHD, but conscionable HDR and not HDR10+? There’s nary Dolby Vision connected nan TV, truthful is it moreover imaginable to get a 4K Blu-ray that has HDR10+?


I’ll reply nan 2nd portion of your question: Yes, there is simply a list of 50+ 4K Blu-rays pinch HDR+ connected them. Forty isn’t a lot, though, truthful there’s a bully chance that your determination is going to travel down to whether you suffer nan little spot complaint of streaming successful favour of move HDR 10+ metadata aliases sacrifice HDR 10+ move metadata successful favour of a precocious spot complaint from a disc.

I really want to do a afloat comparison connected this. But for now, I will opportunity 4K Blu-ray is my preference. I deliberation nan higher spot complaint will connection a overmuch cleaner look — little colour banding, much detail, little sound — and nan HDR will beryllium beautiful dang good, moreover without nan move metadata. That’s wherever I stand. However, there’s nary arguing that nan streaming action is astir apt rather a spot cheaper and still beautiful freaking great, truthful that could move nan needle for you. But, if costs were nary object, aliases if you really for illustration owning your content, I’d bargain nan Blu-ray earlier nan “digital copy” connected Amazon.

Chroma subsampling

An image of bowls pinch lemon, raspberries, and mint displayed connected a Samsung S95C.Even cutting separator TVs for illustration nan Samsung S95C still make usage of chroma subsampling connected their HDMI 2.1 ports. Zeke Jones / Digital Trends

Thales asks: Can you explicate a spot of nan quality betwixt RGB, YCbCr 4:2:2, and YCbCr 4:4:4, and which 1 would beryllium nan champion to usage connected a desktop monitor? Also, do these besides impact TVs?


First, let’s talk astir spot depth, and past let’s talk astir Chroma subsampling because nan 2 are often mentioned successful nan aforesaid activity – particularly connected PCs and cameras. Color spot extent refers to nan number of colors that tin beryllium captured by a camera aliases expressed connected a display. The number of colors is elemental math. We person 3 colour primaries: red, green, and blue. Those dress up RGB.

In 8-bit color, location are 256 shades each of red, green, and blue. Multiply 256 times 256 times 256, and you get astir 16.7 cardinal colors. That seems for illustration a lot. But, past there’s a 10-bit color, successful which location are 1,024 shades each of red, green, and blue. Do that math, and you get 1.07 cardinal colors, which is simply a full batch more. And to really boggle your brain. In 12-bit color, location are 4,096 shades each of red, green, and blue, moving retired to a dizzying 68.7 billion colors.

Now, understand that colour accusation — Chrominance — is big, fat-cat information. It takes a batch of abstraction aliases bandwidth. It takes measurement much than luminance, aliases black-and-white information. This really useful retired conscionable good for america because we are measurement much delicate to brightness changes (that’s contrast) than we are to color.

In a video signal, luminance accusation — nan black-and-white aliases grayscale — is uncompressed because it is ace important and only takes up astir one-third of nan full bandwidth of that video signal.

Color being nan abstraction hog that it is, it must beryllium compressed. However, if we compress nothing, we get 4:4:4 Chroma. That’s nan best, and location are very fewer sources of uncompressed color. The adjacent measurement down is 4:2:2, which has half nan colour accusation but is still a spot of a abstraction hog. Then we person 4:2:0, which is one-quarter of nan colour accusation and still a abstraction hog, but it is much manageable. See, 4:2:0 Chroma subsampling is astir of what we get connected TV. It’s nan spec for streaming and for 4K Blu-ray Discs, and we’re each rather happy pinch it. Game consoles tin support 4:2:2 chroma because they are fundamentally mini-PCs. But retrieve that each that colour accusation takes up a batch of space. So if you boost up to 4:2:2 chroma, you’ll apt person to sacrifice location other — for illustration framework rate, for example.

On a PC, you whitethorn want to opt for 4:2:2 aliases 4:4:4 if you tin because you tin spot a quality pinch matter complete azygous colors. But, again, depending connected your setup and your usage case, pumping up nan chroma subsampling whitethorn require trade-offs to different video capacity that you don’t want to make.

Showroom OLEDs

 Multiverse of Madness plays connected a Samsung S95B TV while nan Samsung Q990B soundbar handles nan soundtrackDigital Trends

Jason Wuster writes that they are holding connected to their 12-year-old Pioneer Kuro plasma. OLED TVs look unspeakable successful nan store. The displays pinch lizards connected branches aliases chromatic dripping look astounding. But erstwhile they show films, they look for illustration basking garbage. I was precocious successful my section shop and they were showing Dr. Strange and nan Multiverse of Madness connected an LG C3, and it conscionable looked mushy, smeary, and gross. Is this because of mediocre awesome quality, aliases are they conscionable poorly calibrated in-store? If I had spent $3,00 connected 1 and it looked for illustration that astatine home, I would person buyer’s remorse. 


It’s difficult for maine to cognize precisely what’s going connected astatine your section Best Buy, truthful I tin only speculate. I suppose it is imaginable that nan matrix move they usage to administer nan video awesome to aggregate TVs could beryllium a limiting factor. But what’s astir apt is that nan TVs are successful showroom mode, which intends they’ll fundamentally beryllium successful Vivid mode. And pinch Vivid mode, which over-brightens everything, blows retired color, and applies a very acold colour temperature, comes mobility smoothing.

My conjecture is that what you saw was an utmost type of what we often telephone “soap opera effect,” which has a jarring look to anyone who is utilized to a 24-frame-per-second movie cadence. Soap opera effect, nan by-product of mobility smoothing aliases mobility interpolation, is not nan aforesaid arsenic watching precocious frame-rate video that was recorded astatine 60 fps aliases higher. It isn’t nan aforesaid because nan smoothing involves faked video — nan TV is virtually making up frames and inserting them. And nan consequence is … well, it’s seldom good. It’s little annoying erstwhile nan TV conscionable has to double a 30-frame-per-second TV awesome because that occupation is overmuch easier than trying to return 24 frames per 2nd and mathematically make it multiply evenly to 60, 120, aliases 240 frames per second.

My champion conjecture is that’s why you dislike nan look of OLED TVs astatine nan shop you’re visiting. You tin ever inquire an subordinate to return nan TV retired of showroom mode and fto you spot what it looks for illustration erstwhile it is successful Filmmaker Mode aliases Cinema Mode — not Cinema Home, though, arsenic that leaves immoderate mobility smoothing on. Anyway, galore of america retired here, myself included, who moved from plasma to OLED and are pleased arsenic punch astir it. Even though OLED introduces immoderate caller issues that Plasma didn’t have, its benefits acold outweigh its faults. I made a video astir Plasma vs. OLED.

Blu-ray players

A Panasonic-UB820 Blu-ray player. Panasonic

Roderick L Strong writes: I person nan Panasonic UB820, and I emotion it — particularly nan HDR optimizer usability it has. I’m connected nan obstruction astir getting nan Magnetar UDP800, but I don’t cognize if it’s thing that I should put in, considering really good my Panasonic performs and that I don’t person immoderate beingness audio media that nan Magnetar could return advantage of. I would for illustration your input: Should I enactment pinch my Panasonic aliases make nan leap pinch nan Magnetar?


The elemental answer: Stick pinch nan Panasonic. Unless it is showing signs of property aliases causing you immoderate different issues of concern, it is doing precisely nan occupation you request it to do. I would not bargain a caller subordinate expecting a noticeable upgrade successful video fidelity. If you had a batch of beingness audio media, that would beryllium a different story. But for playing 4K Blu-rays, instrumentality pinch what you person and what you already very overmuch enjoy.